06/08/2017 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

“Lean On” Spotlight: Gabriella, Ann, and Roxanne

CS&A's inaugural Women's Institute will be held on June 16 in Boston.

Gabriella Ann and Roxanne

Over the past several weeks, we have been shining the spotlight on the incredibly talented educators who will be speakers and panelists at our inaugural Women’s Institute, the theme of which is “Lean On: Strengthening One Another Through Mentorship and Collective Wisdom.” This week we look at the final three Honorary Faculty members.


Gabriella RoweGabriella Rowe

-Head of School, The Village School (TX)
-Former Head of School, The Mandell School (NY)

Have you been a mentor or mentee? Describe your experience.

I have been both a mentor and a mentee, but I value being a mentor the most. As a businesswoman, I had few women mentors, besides my mother, early in my career. The mentor role has been meatier and more meaningful for me. As a mentor, I find myself able to provide the support, guidance, and celebration of growth that I wasn’t always able to have as a lone woman in the business world. That solitude was not a good thing. As a mentor, I’ve had the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of my mentees in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Why do you think it’s important we host the Institute?

This Institute for women is the future. There are so many strong, passionate women around us and we need things like the Women’s Institute to give us a platform to be able to reach those women. Any woman in business who thinks she doesn’t have an obligation to reach out and help the young women around her is wrong. We will never move forward and we will never find balance in the workforce if we don’t reach out to help the next generation. We need to act as role models, mentors, and guides for the young women and men. It’s a tall order to ask of this Institute, but I have high hopes for what it will accomplish this year and evolve into for the years to come.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges women in the educational community face? How to you hope it’s addressed at the Institute?

Unbeknownst to many people, the education world has one of the most upside-down gender equations of almost any industry. If you say banking, law, or even Silicon Valley, people immediately have visions of a male-dominated industry. But, education in the leadership administration level is male dominated as well, despite the fact that an overwhelming portion of the workforce is female. In education, we typically don’t emphasize this. However, the only way to make a change is to support younger women to grow beyond these boundaries, to move up in the higher ranks of administration and thought leadership. There has been unquestionable progress in this area over the last 10 years, but we have so much further to go. In my opinion, this is the greatest challenge for this Institute. We have the opportunity to bring gender balance to the educational leadership pyramid. We can bring this type of change with one institute, one administration, and one teacher at a time. What better way to start this journey than at the Women’s Institute?

Ann SullivanAnn Sullivan

-Associate Head of School, Rye Country Day School (NY)
-Former Interim Head of School, The Lincoln School (RI)
-Former Head of School, School of the Holy Child (NY)
-Various roles at Friends Seminary (NY)

Why would you recommend a colleague attend the Women’s Institute?

I have actually recommended this event to several colleagues at Rye Country Day School. As a former Head of School, I learned late in my tenure that the single most important factor in encouraging women to take on the Head of School role and other leadership roles in independent schools is to ask them to do it. And so I pretty frequently do now when I see a strong woman educator. They occasionally demur, “I don’t think I can do that with a family,” and I say, citing Joan Holden of St. Agnes and St. Stephens’s School who had a baby shortly after assuming the Headship, that “You have more support in that role from a school and its trustees than as a faculty member. You can do it!”

What advice would you give your younger self?

Make the move to become Head of School five years sooner. At the NAIS New Heads Institute in 1999, the women were all on average 10 years older than the men. Women often feel they have to have mastery of every aspect of the position before applying to become a Head. Men generally don’t. (Also if I recall correctly, more men fall out of the role sooner than women.)

Who is your role model?

Joyce McCray, the Head at Friends Seminary for 12 of my 24 years there, unexpectedly appointed me to head the Admissions Office and then the College Counseling Office. She brought me several times to NAIS where I shared a room with Ellen Stein (now Head of Dalton) and then to NAPSG, both crucial to my professional development. About two years before I began to think of becoming one, she said, “When are you going to be a Head?” In retrospect, she was a crucial influence and counselor. When I did assume the headship, she was the first person I went to for advice! Her humor, intelligence, and hospitality remain unforgettable.

Roxanne ZazzaroRoxanne Zazzaro

-Director of the Upper School, Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences (CA)
-Former Head of Guidance/Learning Specialist, Upper School Dean of Students, Upper School Head at Brooklyn Friends School (NY)
-Former Learning Specialist, reading and English teacher at Cheshire Academy (CT)

Have you been a mentor or mentee? Describe your experience.

I have been a mentor and a mentee. (In fact, I am acting as a mentor this school year.) I am a firm believer in mentorship, and once a strong relationship-bond is formed a mentor can remain a mentor for a lifetime. Early in my career, I had four mentors that helped me. These seasoned teachers guided me, fostered my growth, saw the potential in me, and encouraged me to continue to develop my teaching skills and leadership. Two of these mentors who helped me during the first five years of teaching are still in my life. We often write a quick note to each other and when we can, visit each other. And over 30 years later, they still encourage me to explore the next steps, provide a sounding board for me to work through difficulties, point out areas for growth, and offer sage advice. As a mentor, I hope to foster the same in my mentees—being a support, an advocate, a guide, and a resource.

Who was your favorite teacher?

I have had a number of favorite teachers, beginning with elementary school through my post-graduate work. As I think about these teachers, I realized that they were my favorites because they made learning fun. They encouraged their students to think outside the box and take risks. They highlighted creativity and self-expression. They were genuine and because of this made it safe for me to be myself.

Why do you think it’s important we host the Institute?

While many of our schools support women in leadership roles, the playing fields for the sexes are still not even. Strong women have had to learn to find strategies to channel strengths and voices. The Institute, hopefully, will allow women to support and guide each other. In turn, I hope that it will allow the participants and faculty to come to a realization of shared experiences, support, and mentorship.


Registration has closed for our Institute. We’ll see everyone next week!

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